Thank you all for your comments following last week’s post. It’s lovely to hear everyone’s reactions to what I’ve written and reminds me of the importance of this ongoing research and thinking around my teaching. So this week’s inspiration came from my new-found hobby of swing dancing. It’s a step up from ironing, and somehow continues from last week’s post, which you can read here.

Swing is a social dance. You dance with a partner, either loosely facing or side by side. One person in the couple is the ‘lead’ and the other is the ‘follow’. This description is all highly simplistic I know, because you watch professionals dancing and they’re literally all over the place. But at a very basic level, your footwork and facings essentially mirror that of your partner.

Bare with me.

Following the usual set-up of the beginners class I go to, last night we first learnt a basic step, and then built on that into different variations. The lead dancer started by stepping back on the left leg, the ‘follow’ stepped back on the right. The pattern soon set in till it felt almost unconscious, which we only realised several variations into the class when we suddenly all found ourselves on the ‘wrong’ side of our partners. Having to do the basic step on the other leg before we could get back to ‘home’ felt like picking up a knife in the wrong hand. Panic!

What we experienced was the surprise of having internalised a movement pattern.

Repetition has long been the main way of learning dance steps. We talk about ‘getting it into the body’ or ‘feeling it in the body’ so that it becomes imprinted to such a degree that it can be performed unconsciously. This is the result of neuro-muscular patterning, the particular organisation and co-ordination of parts needed to carry out the movement. The rate of encoding will depend on how practiced our neuro-muscular system is at adapting to the demands of this new circuitry and what other library of sequencing the body already has to draw on. If the basic scaffolding (an understanding of centre, full access to the peripheral joints and an ability to sequence from one to the other) is available, then building the sequence will take less time. Perhaps for those without a basic scaffolding, more basic patterns will need to be laid down first before the full co-ordination can be accomplished. Once a pattern is imprinted into the body, it then becomes the ‘easy’, most available option, which in turn makes us more likely to select it, leading to further re-enforcement etc.

OK so perhaps you have no interest in learning social dancing, although I highly recommend it, but this little unpicking of learning seems relevant to how we create movement biases just through living. As I struggled to get my left leg to start the rock step back, I was reminded of this remark by Liz Koch:

Unlike a machine, we are not symmetrical but bilateral – Liz Koch

We are literally composed of two different and complimentary parts that work together around a single central core. However, somehow, through conscious or unconscious learning, we have all internalised movement patterns that have led to more or less use of one side over another. Of course I’m not suggesting that we all become ambidextrous. We will always have a dominant hand / leg. However I wonder how much we tend to lean onto these dominant sides. Remember that the body will always default to the easiest, most available pattern which, whilst over-developing activity on one side, will equally reduce access on the other side. Injury, for example, can lock us into a pattern that is aimed to protect the injured part in the short term, but causes more imbalances in the long term. Learned non-use leads to functional asymmetry. The result is a metaphorical limp in the neuro-muscular system with various compensation patterns, stresses and strains on the joints that lead to pain and injury.

Perhaps the roles of ‘lead’ and ‘follow’ might equally apply to two sides of our body? If so, the key to reducing this functional asymmetry is to somehow land up on the other side, to trick the body into stepping out of ‘home’ and remaining bi-laterally able.

The way towards bi-later-ability (my own word, not a technical term) is the ABC of better movement:

  • Increase Awareness: notice your habits.
  • Shake Things Up: walk around the park in the other direction, put your mat down on the other side of the room, start on the opposite leg, go to a different class (because teachers also tend to default into patterns of exercises and teaching techniques that come easiest to them), change the interlace of your fingers.
  • Listen to Feedback: Go to a class where a teacher can see what you’re doing and help bring your awareness to patterns that you are not aware of.

Be creative, let me know what other small habit shifts you’ve thought of.



Diastasis Recti

As some of you know, I’ve recently become intrigued by the number of men I come across with some degree of Diastasis Recti. A DR is a split in the abdominal wall, which we commonly come across amongst pregnant and post-natal women.

DR is accepted/ expected as a normal result of pregnancy. As the baby grows, the abdominal wall splits to make room for the growing bump. Post-natal Pilates focuses on re-knitting the abdominal wall by gradually increasing loads to tone the abdominals whilst encouraging the abdominal wall to sink downwards and inwards. It’s a tricky balance. If you load too much, the abdominal wall is pushed outwards, further exacerbating the problem. If you load too little the client finds it very hard to ‘feel’ anything in the abdominals and other muscle groups like the Hip Flexors begin to take over.

The good thing is that when you work with a post-natal woman, they know that their abdominal wall is vulnerable. So they don’t go for broke on big abdominal exercises. They (often) listen to my instruction to reduce loading if they’re in a big class, or engage with the issue rather than trying to ignore it. Men with a DR, on the other hand, have not just given birth. They don’t feel vulnerable, in fact many of them appear to be quite strong. They often show up in my classes because their physio recommended Pilates for their lower back pain…small wonder. Many of them simply don’t accept that the abnormal bulge in their abdominal wall is a problem at all. The literature out there backs this up, calling it harmless. But a split in the fascial sheets of the abdominal wall is not functional. Try telling a buff looking man that he needs to do post-natal Pilates….

Enter Katy Bowman.

Katy Bowman is a bio-mechanist. She looks at movement in terms of forces placed on the bones, joints, soft-tissue and even the cells. Her philosophy is to develop nutritious movement habits, varying the loads and directions of pull on the body so that we develop a varied movement diet, leading to all-round wellbeing. She’s a massive fan of the squat and hanging from trees, for example, movements that our sedentary culture has made very easy to forgo.

In her most recent publication Diastasis Recti, Bowman insists that DR is a whole body problem. She identifies that all occurrences of DR result from too much pressure on the abdominal wall. Whether this is because of a growing baby in your belly, or if, like a friend of mine, you just picked up something too heavy and literally ‘bust your guts’. From a bio-mechanical point of view, the cause is the same: too much pressure on the abdominal wall from the inside outwards, and though the onset may be sudden, the fault lines have slowly been creeping up:

 Slow sustained loads in a certain direction can deform tissues in a manner from which they cannot recover. Mechanical creep is the tendency of a material to deform slowly under a constant stress. The failure of a tissue in this case is called a creep failure. A diastasis recti or hernia is the result of creep failures.” Katy Bowman.

So Diastasis Recti is NOT just a natural result of pregnancy. It is the result of abnormal amounts of force on the abdominal wall, of which pregnancy may be one cause.

The abdominal muscles support the lower back. Poor tone or weakness in the abdominal wall results in a gradual wear and tear on the discs and intervertebral joints in the lower back. It’s obvious that a tear in the abdominal structures makes them a lot less functional (read: weak), which is why they really need to be addressed. I think that when medical professionals say that DR’s are ‘harmless’ what they mean is that they are not cancerous growths. But a DR is not something to ignore.

It follows that if the cause is the pressure on the abdominal wall, then just fixating on the location of the DR itself, as we tend to do with post-natal women, is a very limited way of looking at it. That doesn’t mean that specific, targeted abdominal work is not necessary. On the contrary, we do need to work to restore correct functioning of the abdominal muscles, but it needs to done within a program that considers the pressures on the abdominal wall brought about by the organization of the body as a whole.

If I hold a picture Doc - 28 Mar 2017 - 21-56in my mind of clients who have a DR, the picture is roughly this. The rib cage is flailed, compressing the mid-back area and the pelvis is in a forward tilt. This appears to create more space out the front, making it the favoured posture for a pregnant woman. I think that men who adopt this posture (if they are not obese) do so because they may be trying to sit upright, but don’t have the mobility in their upper thoracic area or shoulders, and therefor hinge on the mid-back section. Once you displace the ribs in this way, it makes it very hard to feel a connection through the centre, so any abdominal work is likely to go into the Hip Flexors or lower back.


Bowman goes through a very comprehensive program of exercises to address every detail around this posture type, (and I highly recommend her book to clients, especially men, who have a DR). However, one of the key factors that makes DR quite difficult for a post-natal woman is: asymmetry, which I don’t think Bowman has addressed sufficiently in her book. Having one leg longer than the other, or some rotation in the pelvis, or a scoliosis all lead to a weakening of the abdominal wall. Lack of alignment causes weakness in the surrounding muscles. So addressing this is just as important. Once the body is aligned, the hip flexors are released and the ribs are dropped, we can then progress to more targeted abdominal work focusing on sinking the abdominal wall. The trajectory is therefor: align the pelvis, release the rib cage, open up the hip flexors and then integrate low level abdominal loads.

My next post will go into more detail on each of these. 🙂


Piggy in the Middle

Do you remember that game where two people throw a ball to each other over the head of another player who is standing in between them? The ‘piggy in the middle’ has to run around like mad trying to intercept the pass, whilst the others play all sorts of tricks like ducking  or switching directions at the last moment. Yep, well, the piggy in the middle is a great metaphor for the knee.

When the ankle joint receives weight it is normally in contact with the ground. This restricts the movement possibilities within the ankle, providing a relatively stable base on which to stand (‘relatively’ being the operative word here). The hip joint is structurally stable being both deep inside the pelvis and reinforced by layers of strong tendons. In relative terms, the knee is in a much more precarious situation. In the downward spiral (my term, not a technical one), the knee has to accommodate the torsion created by deviations / restrictions above (in the hip) or below (in the foot) or both.

However, the knee is not designed to rotate! It’s a hinge joint. It is designed to allow us to flex in the lower limb. This decelerates the fall of the body, reducing the impact of the ground’s force when our weight is met by a hard surface. It should only move forwards (flex) or lengthen (extend – as opposed to hyper extend (that’s another story)). Restrictions around the ankle and hip force the knee into inward (knock knee) or outward (bow legs) rotation (- bow legs is not really a result of the Spiral Line collapsing, I’ll cover that on another post). Continuous torsion over time ultimately leads to injury. It’s the piggy in the middle, and all it can do is scream in pain.


It is very rare that a knee injury is directly the result of poor functioning in the knee itself! (Dislocation and hyper extension are obviously an exception.) And yet the tendency is just to treat the knee with medications, massage and exercises that directly relate to the knee alone, instead of addressing the underlying cause of the torsion which may be in the ankle, the hip or both. No, I’m not saying you shouldn’t strengthen the VMO and release the ITB (if you have dodgy knees you’ll have come across these terms already). Unfortunately, we often only know about the pattern when the knee starts to create some noise, by which time damage within the knee itself has already taken root. So we then have a situation where we do need to treat the knee to relieve the pain. But the knee pain is a symptom of a wider pattern.

So how do we identify restrictions that may be putting a torsion strain on the knee before we get to that point of injury, and what can we do to reduce them? Here are some suggestions:

  1. When you next walk up a flight of stairs, look at how your knees move over your toes. Do your knees roll inwards or outwards? Both of these are a sign of some compensation. Try sending your knee directly forwards over your toes. It may feel strange, or effortful at first, but by gradually encouraging better alignment you start to unlock the poor pattern.
  2. Listen out for noise. It’s obvious enough, but constant cracking, popping and crunching in the knee is not a good sign. If it is on one side but not on the other (unilateral) then this could be a sign of whole body torsion (again, my term not a technical one), which is particularly common for people with a scoliosis or some other asymmetry (like a leg length discrepancy). Working to reduce the impact of this structural asymmetry on the soft tissue will help to reduce the constant pulling on the knee. You need to do a well rounded class that includes release and stabilisation for the pelvis and spine. Attacking the leg alone with a foam roller may just exacerbate the situation.
  3. Decompress the knee. If you are hearing clicking sounds in the knee and starting to experience pain you need to focus on decompressing the knee joint. The typical thing to do is to strengthen the VMO (the lowest fibres of the inner most quadriceps muscle) which helps to lift the knee cap, whilst releasing the ITB (the tough tissue on the outer side of the leg). You should also look to lengthen the hamstrings. (My next post will look at functional use of the hamstrings.) But you cannot ignore the lower leg. The muscles in the lower leg also tend to tighten up, especially the ones around the outer side (the peroneals), these are particularly hard to stretch, and are often by-passed in people with dropped arches. The Feldenkrais variations of calve stretching described in the video on my previous post will massively help to relieve this tension. Try to avoid really tough stretching. Work on creating glide between the layers of muscle instead.
  4. Strengthen the muscles around the hip. This will be covered on my next post.

Warning: Listen to your body. The aim is to move without pain and no blog can really tell you how to assess and correct your movement. Speak to a professional and get them to give you some feedback on your knee tracking. Just remember, the cause is not normally in the knee.


My next post will look at the hip – foot sling.

On Presence

Sometimes I think that the word ‘mindfulness’ is a little unhelpful. It conjures up an image of sitting quietly for hours everyday, silencing your thoughts and listening to your breath. Apart from the fact that this is not a realistic target for most people, I think it can give a very ‘brain centred’ image of the practice.

When I first came across the word in yoga 15 or so years ago, it seemed to me to be the opposite of mindlessness. Rather than moving without attention and awareness, moving mindfully is about consciously engaging in the movement, being present in the movement, ie: not switching off and thinking about your Tesco’s shop whilst doing a downward dog. The practice of mindfulness has been abstracted from this into a practice on its own. The goal is to be fully present as opposed to absently allowing the mind to drift into the past or future. It suggests a way of achieving the ‘Zen’ without the acrobatics, making it more accessible. But in a way this approach just propagates the dualistic mind-body split that we seem to be addicted to in our culture.

To be fair on the mindfulness practice, they do often use the body and breathing as an anchor to meditative practice. But I just find the static nature of the task to be quite painful. Don’t we spend enough time sitting?!

When I first started teaching I struggled with how much to expect clients to listen and follow my directions. I guess that, because Pilates involves lying on your back for a while (or at least to begin with), it can seem like an opportunity to switch off. Sometimes people show up for a class and spend most of it trying to sleep. (Of course I don’t mind that: if they are really that tired then they absolutely should sleep.) Then there are people who just want their bodies to be taught whilst their minds drift off. Funny ha? But surprisingly common too. They treat their bodies a bit like they treat their cars: they’ve no idea how they work, they just need them to function. When they don’t work, they rock up at the mechanic and ask for it to be fixed. This split of mind and body is a deeply ingrained attitude that the fitness industry has tended to reinforce. I’m sorry to break it to you, but there is no dream set of exercises that will fix your knee pain, give you back that flat stomach or make you lose that weight. The reason for this is that we are genetically pre-disposed to economise, to cut corners, to cheat. Mindless movement is just giving license to all your bad habits which are usually the reason for your pain in the first place. The only way to achieve pain free movement and a healthy weight is to wake up and be present in your movement, which is why concentration is one of the principles of Pilates.

Now I also know some people who use exercise as an opportunity to switch off and genuinely believe that this “dream time” does them good. Well, there is a reason that mindfulness has become so popular and that’s because the evidence suggests that being ‘present’ is key to our general sense of happiness. I recently came across this article by Maria Popova where she quotes Alan Watts writing in 1951! I don’t think I’ve heard the argument for presence articulated so well:

What keeps us from happiness… is our inability to fully inhabit the present… our primary mode of relinquishing presence is by leaving the body and retreating into the mind — that ever-calculating, self-evaluating, seething cauldron of thoughts, predictions, anxieties, judgments, and incessant meta-experiences about experience itself.

I speak here simply from the point of view of a movement teacher, from my own experience of different exercise forms, and from my own battles with silencing the endless chatter in my head. This is what I think: if you are mindfully engaged in your movement practice, not only do you move better and achieve more, but you will also be happier.

Here are a few suggestions for being more present in your movement:

  1. Join a class – Being in a class gives you some kind of anchor (the teacher’s instruction, verbal cues and hands on correction) that keeps you mindfully engaged in what you are doing. In this state you are more likely to work effectively because you cannot switch off and slip into the easier habits that you have unconsciously learned in order to minimise effort. The good news is that by listening in, staying in tune as it were, you are not only going to gain more physically, you will also be practicing mindfulness.
  2. Choose classes and teachers who will support your mindful practice – So this one is a bit of a tricky one because there are a few teachers who, to my mind, have forgotten the point of the practice. I’ve experienced and witnessed many teachers taking clients through a practice whilst chatting away nineteen to the dozen about their kids schools, what they did on the weekend and the state of their garden, intermingled with “now sink your belly and wrap the backs of the legs together…”. I know I sometimes joke about how I take my Pilates very seriously, but I’m sorry there is a balance and too often it’s being tipped away from mindfulness. By it’s very nature, the equipment studio and private sessions are a more relaxed, informal environment than the matwork class, so it’s natural (and right) that teachers develop a relationship with clients. My philosophy on this is to allow the client to lead this. It may be that they really need to get something off their chest, or they’re lonely and I’m the first person they’ve spoken to that day. But after giving some space for this, I try to gently encourage them back to the practice. Luckily for me, this is what I’m good at, teaching. I’m terrible at small talk. But if you have a teacher who keeps drifting into chatter, I suggest closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing. You could also ask a question about what you’re doing. It takes some discipline, but if you stop engaging with the conversation, they’ll soon get the message. It’s your class after all!
  3. Change something – If you always go to the same class, run the same route, do the same sequence of swimming strokes, then mix it up. Not only is this better for your body, but it requires a different attention.
  4. Practice Awareness through Movement – So you know how much I constantly go on about Feldenkrais? Trust me it is pure genius. The deepest way to learn about your own movement is by listening to your body. Yes Pilates is good for you, but Feldenkrais is like the abc of moving. You could join a class (check out the Feldenkrais Guild Website) or, for the time poor, you can access free classes online. The Feldenkrais Guild website has a number of short audio classes on their resource page. If you do a short session before you go off for your run or swim, you’ll tap into something different.

Let me know what you think and how you get on!



Spring Term Pilates Classes @ ISH Great Portland Street

7E5W6815 web

Breathe deeply, strengthen and lengthen your spine and leave feeling energised for the week ahead!
A relaxed and friendly class for all abilities. No matter what your work / life demands, you’ll never get through it without a happy body. Here’s just one hour a week for you to tune in, learn a little and work a lot harder than you expected 🙂
New Course Starts 11th April
Thursdays 6-7pm
229 Great Portland Street (on the corner with Euston Road)
London W1W 5PN
£70 for a 10 class course or £10 drop-in
Contact to book a space. Mats and equipment provided. Just bring yourself and some comfy clothes. More FAQ’s on my website:

“Training, or any kind of physical conditioning, is only useful when its focus is to prepare the body, to bring the body to a point where it is ready for action, where it has options and can react to internal and external stimuli efficiently and effectively with no need to pre-rehearse.”

Rules and Freedom

The house I live in is shared with 6 other people. We’re all busy professionals. We’re not friends who knew each other and decided to start living together, although of course we are friendly. And we’re not family. We have a rota in the kitchen for who will take the bin out and pay the cleaner each week. Rules. There’s a part of me that resists the thought of having to pin myself down to petty rules. It seems unintuitive, manufactured, nanny-ing. Surely any reasonable adult knows how to empty a bin when it’s full. Think again. It was my turn to empty the bin last week. Saturday morning + a bin full of rubbish + late for work = an angry scribble on the rota pointing out that weekly duties lasted into the weekend. Oops!

Rules are by nature an act of control, whether self-imposed, tacitly agreed on or not. Having any kind of organisation requires rules, boundaries that protect us from ourselves, or at least from the worst aspects of our human-ness. Most reasonable people agree on this with respect to social organisation. We know that imposing some form of control does not necessarily infringe on freedom. If anything it protects all of our freedoms. The same is true of movement practice, training and choreographic practice.

The Problem with Contemporary Dance Classes

In the contemporary dance world there’s some confusion as to how you train the body without restricting it to one ‘way of moving’. Training involves internalizing a technique: a system with rules. It often generates a kind of aesthetic too. It seems completely contradictory to the idea of individuality and the industry’s obsession with ‘idiosyncratic movement vocabulary.’ In release classes we’re supposed to start each day by re-inventing the dictionary, wiping out centuries of evolutionary movement function and pattern in order to become completely unique ‘movers’. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that we spend 2 hour long professional classes rolling around on the floor like amoebae ‘visualising’. (Actually visualisation is an extremely powerful tool when working with the body, so long as it is grounded in function and is not just thrown around for its own sake. Creating pretty pictures in your head is all very well. But if it serves no purpose then you lose me instantly.) The alternative is to attend a class that is far more stylised, involves ‘exercises’ but is most often a confusion of ideas about how to ‘train’ the body. These classes seem to miss the point because they switch into ‘choreography’ before addressing the most obvious question: where does power and support come from? Learning someone elses co-ordinations is interesting and is useful. But it needs to form a part of a class that addresses movement in a less embellished and more functional format.

The truth is that being asked to do nothing, or to do what you want, leads to exactly the opposite of freedom! You might not be forced into some silly routine, but you’re undoubtedly regurgitating a lifetime’s movement pattern ingrained in your body and fixed as habit, even if you are not aware of it! Choreographers know this. It’s interesting that the movement aesthetic that has come to dominate in contemporary dance work, ‘Release’, has been attributed to a choreographer who still doesn’t ‘teach’ a ‘technique’ class to her company: Trisha Brown. When asked about this Brown’s reply was that she created ‘problems’ that required ‘movement solutions’. She didn’t go out of her way to develop the ‘Release aesthetic’. The aesthetic came out of the questions she proposed. In fact there is a kind of functionality to her movement vocabulary that comes from her adherence to the task at hand. Even the term ‘release’ is something of a misnomer. ‘Release’ is not about flopping around and relaxing, it’s actually about learning to un-embellish movement to create clarity in how you move through space, take or give weight or respond to choreographic structures and scores. It’s actually about efficiency. However, what developed as a functional response to a choreographic intention has become a ‘style’ with ‘moves’, a ‘performance presence’ and a bizarre aversion towards the idea of using muscles.

What’s Natural?

Let’s go back to habit for a moment. Something I am often asked as a pilates teacher is why someone should stand in parallel if their natural posture is turned out. It’s a good question. It’s the KEY question, because underlying it is the assumption that what feels ‘natural’ is ‘natural’. The truth is that what feels ‘natural’ is actually ‘habit’. Just to clarify here, the person asking is normally not actually standing in a ‘turned out position’ but is often standing with a collapsed arch and toes pointed outwards whilst their knee is rotating inwards. So my answer is that parallel is a quick way to align the ankle, knee and hip to spot poor alignment issues that lead to less efficient bio-mechanics in the lower limb and pelvis. Yes we can stand in turned out too. We can stand in a turned in position also, or with legs apart, or with one leg off the floor or any variation of the above, so long as we know that we are aligning ourselves in a way that respects the structure of the joints and most importantly, within a range of movement that we can control. So by gradually progressing through increasingly complex variations of the above, sustaining control throughout, we develop a physical ability to carry out any imaginable movement.

Options not Restrictions

Training should be about giving people options, not restricting. The aim of training, class or practice is to achieve a fully functioning, injury free body that is ready for anything, not restricted by habit or by an adherence to a particular style. As I was writing this article I came across a post by another Pilates Teacher Mike Perry, who says something quite similar with respect to Pilates:

“..Pilates’ intention was to create a form of physical training that, unlike the kinds of training he had done himself (boxing, for example), would ready one for any conceivable physical challenge. In a nutshell, General Physical Preparedness.”  – Mike Perry, read the blog here

Training, or any kind of physical conditioning, is only useful when its focus is to prepare the body, to bring the body to a point where it is ready for action, where it has options and can react to internal and external stimuli efficiently and effectively with no need to pre-rehearse. I feel that what is strongly needed in the dance world is an approach to movement development that safeguards the dancer from self-indulgence without enforcing any particular style. It should be a process that gradually brings the performer into themselves more fully, so that habit is replaced by options, providing an informed starting point for any movement exploration. As Gary Carter once said, a dog lying quietly on the floor, sees something worth chasing, springs up and runs after it. It doesn’t slowly extract itself from the floor, do some hip limbering, chose it’s ‘better leg’ and then spring. Similarly, our bodies should be ready for action. We should be able to sprint for the bus without worrying about our knee tracking. A performer should be able to change direction, transfer weight or get to the floor as and when the work requires them to, not when it feels right, or when they’re on their ‘good side’. That is what physical ‘freedom’ means.

Working inefficiently or restricting ourselves to one way of moving will often manifest itself in injury at some point. Problems happen when a ‘way of training’, ie: a ‘technique’ becomes a ‘style’ or worse still a ‘habit’. This is when choices are made not because they are functional but because they fit in with the particular look. This is how parallel position of the feet has become synonymous with the contemporary aesthetic, whereas a turned out position indicates a ballet aesthetic. One ex-royal ballet dancer turned pilates teacher once described how after years of stretching her hamstrings in a turned out position, she happened to step in to perform a piece that required parallel leg kicks and instantly tore her hamstring. Once again to quote Mike quoting Gray Cook:

“Every time we specialise we give up our adaptability” – Gray Cook, quoted in Mike Perry’s What’s Great About Pilates, Part 4. Read the full article here

Mind Training

Habit isn’t just something that the body does. We have thinking habits too. I’ve recently begun attending meditation classes with the wonderful Jill Setterfield. I’ll go into more detail on the content of the sessions another time. Right now I want to bring up a point that I feel is relevant to this discussion. The first step in meditation is to become aware of your thoughts and judgements, to notice what ‘gear’ your mind habitually shifts into. Meditation is not about doing nothing. Actually it often involves a lot of training to learn how to gain control of your thoughts. Jill suggests that allowing your thoughts to drift to where your mind wants to take you does not make you free. Rather you become a slave to a way of thinking or a frame of mind that has grown with you through your interactions in the world. Being able to control your thoughts allows you to become the person you really want to be. It frees you from impulsive actions that are rarely efficient or effective. But it does take practice and training otherwise it’s just a waste of time!


The most useful outcome of a truly holistic training structure is the development of awareness. Ultimately I think that this is what makes us free to control our movement, behaviour and creative choices. Being aware means being able to notice the difference between habitual tendencies and the other options that might be available. It is through rules that we become aware of the implications of our actions or the wider picture.

So the moral of the story is: don’t be afraid of rules, rights and wrongs, positions. So long as they are used appropriately, to expand the options available, and not simply for their own sake, then they are a vehicle to freedom and happiness. Don’t be seduced by what feels good. Develop a training structure that opens doors. Do things that you are less comfortable with. That is the only way to ensure that you are not stuck in one pattern but are constantly growing into your body.

… And don’t forget to take the rubbish out.

Pilates Classes and Courses

Pilates @ 229 The Studio

 7E5W6815 web

Relaxed, friendly and supportive classes for all ages and abilities.


Pilates is a safe and effective movement technique. It can help to relieve muscle and joint pain whilst supporting your all round fitness and wellbeing. This is a general level class. Beginners and Improvers are advised to join for the full ten week course, which will gradually increase in intensity. More advanced participants will be offered more challenging alternatives, although an emphasis on good technique and alignment are focal points in the class.


Breathe deeply, strengthen and lengthen your body and leave feeling energized for the week ahead!


Thursdays 6-7pm


@ 229 Studio

International Students House

229 Great Portland Street

London W1W 5PN


£70 for 10 class course or £10 drop in